September 12, 2016
It’s hard to be a millennial entering the workforce. Chances are my manager will be a Baby Boomer who doesn’t understand me. I might get criticized in public, judged as lazy—and I might not get enough training to help me succeed.
As a consultant, my job is to see things from different perspectives before making recommendations to executives and leaders of an organization. The perspective you read at the beginning was me viewing the world through the eyes of the 19-year-old daughter of my executive assistant, as she entered the workforce for the first time.
Since millennials (adults ages 19-35 in 2016) now make up one-third of the workforce, according to Pew Research Center, it makes sense for managers to walk a mile in their shoes. My hope is that writing from this perspective can offer some practical ways to engage and motivate those millennials everyone is so concerned about. So here’s a Boomer’s take on it, using the voice of today’s millennial entering the workforce:
Stop labeling, and start learning
When you directly refer to me as a millennial, I know I’ve been labeled as lazy, entitled, and unfocused. Get to know me as a person and stop looking at me as if I’m just part of some group. While it’s true that I grew up in a certain time frame, I don’t want to be seen as a “category.” I don’t want to view you as a Baby Boomer, and I don’t want you to view me as a millennial. I am a person. See me. Learn about me. I have gifts yet undiscovered, and I want you to see what is possible for me. When you stop labeling me, and instead start learning about me, I might change your mind.
Stop criticizing, and start teaching
It embarrasses me when you criticize me in front of a line of customers. OK, so I messed up at the cash register and thought the cherries were grapes. I’ve never liked fruit, and most of my meals were fast food on the go. And I wasn’t trained to know the difference between romaine, iceberg and arugula. Please start training and teaching me, so I can be successful. I want to look good in front of my peers and my customers—just like you do.
Stop bossing, and start coaching
I hate to be treated like I don’t matter, and it’s discouraging to walk away from a conversation feeling like I’m stupid. I don’t need to be bossed. I want to be coached. If you knew coaching skills I would be the best student. Stop telling me what to do, and instead ask me good questions to increase my critical thinking skills. It’s hard to focus when I’m bored, or my job is just rote tasks. Keep me engaged by making me think—and through your wisdom, I can learn the importance of nuances and distinctions.
What if bridging the generation gaps at work is easier than we are making it out to be? What if it’s not all about the manipulation, engagement techniques and tactics being proposed? What if it’s all about communication and relationships? What if no matter what our generation, we could all be a little less certain—and a little more curious?
In my next article, I will write from the perspective of the Boomer boss. This will help millennials advance in their career by giving them some insight into how their manager sees things.